It feels like every event registration includes a question like "Please tell us about any other requirements you have", or, worse, an e-mail address for these requirements, and this leads to two main issues;
- People forget to give information, or don't feel comfortable giving information directly
- People give useless information, or information which isn't too helpful to event organizers
What it does
Everyone can sign in with Facebook and answer a few questions about their own needs. At the moment, these are all about disabilities, but dietary requirements or other needs would be easily added in the future. You can also sign up to confirm that you have no requirements.
Once this is confirmed, you will be prompted to 'review' places that Facebook says you have recently been to. For each of your needs (for example, 'Step-free access', you are asked if the place met them.
Then, when an event organiser has a Facebook event, they can sign in using their Facebook account and;
- See a summary of the access needs of their attendees ('There are wheelchair users and people who need to bring assistance dogs').
- See what proportion of the attendees have not registered with Accessly, so they can be contacted separately if necessary to ascertain their requirements.
- See recommendations of places that are more likely to fit the attendees' needs based on the feedback given about places.
How we built it
The backend is a simple Ruby on Rails app, using the Koala gem to interact with the Facebook Graph API to read information about events, people and places.
The front end is build with accessibility as the first priority, focusing on using no images, and working really well with screen readers. The front end was build with Bootstrap and was designed mobile-first.
The place data is copied into Elasticsearch and can be searched by passing in an array of users. Their requirements are used to filter the places in the Elasticsearch query.
Challenges we ran into
The main problem is that Facebook has a stringent approvals process for apps using more than the most basic profile data, meaning that the app won't work with accounts of users who are not developers of the app.
Accomplishments that we are proud of
- The idea was very well received by the event staff we talked to
- The Facebook integration works very well
- The interface is really accessible using assistive technology.
- The two of us had not met one another until Friday night, and met at the team-generation session.
What we've learned
- Accessibility (both of event venues and of web apps!) is not easy!
- Facebook need to relax about their API access
What's next for Accessly
We've talked a little about business models. It seems there could be a market in businesses using a service like this to highlight their own accessibility to attract the disabled segment of the market, and in providing a neutral platform for honest feedback.
We really wanted to include an Uber integration, and allow people to request accessible transport to the event venue, but ran out of time, and had some issued with the way Uber names these types of services.